Rule Reform Talks Continue

The debate over “filibuster reform is heading behind closed doors, as Democratic hopes for a 51-vote overhaul dim,” POLITICO reports.

Democratic and Republican leaders said they will attempt to broker a deal during the upcoming two-week recess to improve how the Senate does business. Whatever compromise reached likely will be verbal, and unlikely to retool hallowed filibuster rules, senators and aides say.

The end result of the talks is unclear, but Republicans hope they will force Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to regularly allow a free-wheeling process on the Senate floor that lets them offer amendments. Democrats want Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to stop launching time-consuming filibuster threats on even motions to begin debate on legislation.

The elimination of so-called “secret holds,” where a senator can anonymously block legislation or a nominee, also remains a possibility.

Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, whose push to sharply reduce the filibuster’s power stems back to 1995, said that the GOP and Democratic leaders would “probably” reach a deal that would avert a need to change the rules.

Over the next “two weeks, parallel talks will occur between McConnell and Reid – as well as Rules Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the incoming ranking member, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).”

Schumer said he met Alexander Wednesday night to talk about the issue, and would continue to speak with him by phone over the upcoming break.

“My hope is we can come to a bipartisan compromise,” Schumer told reporters Thursday. “I would delude anyone to say ‘we’re there,’ but we had good discussions. …”

“We’re working on two paths: one to build support for the principles we believe in and second to try and work out a compromise with the Republicans if we can,” Schumer said. “That would be our preference.”

Here’s what McConnell and Reid had to say about the rule changes publicly to reporters yesterday:

Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, McConnell reiterated his opposition to changing the rules, saying it was an attempt to “nullify the election” results and “jam through a partisan agenda with no votes to spare.”

“We don’t think the Senate rules are broken,” McConnell said.

But he said the GOP was open to discuss “over the next few weeks what changes, if any, might be appropriate.”

After meeting with his caucus Thursday afternoon, Reid said “it’s very clear that Democrats want to change the rules.”

“They believe, as I believe, the rules have been abused,” Reid said. “And we’re going to work toward that. We hope that the Republicans see the light of day and are willing to work with us. If not, we’ll have to do something on our own.”

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